Games We Play — K-1st Grade

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We enjoy family game time, including board games. Trip is now seven, so he’s developing skills to better play more complicated games. We have moved on from games like Candy Land, and the games are more fun for adults to play. Here’s a list of a few of our favorites the past few years. It includes a lot of classic games!

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1. Sorry!  A fun game with some strategy and some luck involved. The goal is to race around the board to get your four pawns into the safe zone. Depending on the card you draw, you might send an opponent back a few spaces or way back to start. Sorry…not sorry! Of course, turnabout is fair play. Trip likes playing with the Fire and Ice Power-ups, which allow you to freeze an opponent or help your pawns along the board.

2. Operation Another classic game. Players take turns attempting to remove parts from the board. You have to be careful, or you’ll get buzzed! There are many different versions, including a super cool Star Wars edition.

3. Jenga Simple game to play. Blocks are formed in a tower to start. Players take turns removing blocks one-by-one and re-stack onto the tower. There’s suspense as each block is removed and lots of laughs when the tower falls.

4. Connect 4 Time to be strategic and connect four of your colored game pieces in a row before your opponent does!

5. Trouble I think the draw of this game is the Pop-o-Matic that is used to roll the die. The object is to race your four pawns from start to your safety zone. There may be trouble along the way. Opponents can send each other back to start by landing on their pawns. When just Trip and I play, we double up and each play two colors.

6. Spot It! This card consists of a deck of cards. Each card has a variety of pictures on them. Two cards are placed on the table for comparison. Each pair of cards has one–and only one–matching picture. The goal is to spot the matching picture on the cards before your opponent. It can be fast paced and a lot of fun, and it can be played by people of a wide span of ages.

From Amazon.com

7. Scrabble Junior Trip received this game a couple years ago, and at first I thought it was a little tough for a four-year-old. But, it’s actually a game that is good for developing letter and word-building skills for young kids. The box says 5 and up. The board has two sides. One side has words already printed on it. This side is good for children who can identify letters and are just beginning to put together words. The other side looks more like a traditional Scrabble board for kids who are able to spell their own words.

8. Bounce-Off Game Trip received this game for Christmas. I was told, “We got him beer pong for kids.” That’s what it looks like with the ping pong balls. The object of the game is to land balls in patterns on the grid before the other person. If you win the challenge, you get the card. Collect three cards to win the round.

9. UNO A fun game where players try to discard all their cards by matching their hand to the discard pile (matching colors, numbers, or using a wild). There are many different versions, including a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-themed game. The TMNT UNO game also has an added pizza card. The person who plays the card gets to call the color like a Wild card, and the next person has to draw cards from the card pile until they get one that features a turtle.

10. Monopoly Junior Players buy property and compete to stay in the green. Expenses pop up, like when you have to pay an opponent because you landed on their property. If you can’t pay, it’s game over! I like this version even more than “grown-up” Monopoly. It moves (and ends) much quicker!

What are your favorite games for elementary-aged kids?

The LEGO Americana Roadshow

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We went to the free monthly LEGO Build at the LEGO Store at Baybrook Mall. Then, we took a stroll around the mall to see the LEGO Americana Roadshow. The exhibit included LEGO replicas of famous American monuments and historic buildings built from thousands of LEGO bricks. It was incredibly fun to see these recreations. There were also some silly LEGO exhibits, such as a “Darth Mall” (Star Wars figures in a LEGO Mall), and a hands-on LEGO building area. Kids can build their own structure and have it displayed.

The LEGO Americana Roadshow will be at the Baybrook Mall in Friendswood until August 14, 2016. 

Liberty Bell

Statue of Liberty

Lincoln Memorial

The details! The interior of the Lincoln Memorial

Lightlife Plant Protein Foods

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I had the opportunity to sample Lightlife Plant Protein Foods through Moms Meet. These products are “meat made from plants.” They have plant-based protein products such as hot dogs, sausages, deli slices, Chic’n, breakfast ‘meats,’ ‘beef’ products like meatballs and ground crumbles, burgers, and (my favorite) tempeh.

Summer is hot dog season, so Lightlife Smart Dogs provide a meatless alternative for cookouts. Honestly, the hot dogs are not my favorite, but smothering them with your favorite toppings makes them tasty enough for an open-minded consumer. They do just fine on the grill. Smart Dogs are vegan, and each link has 7 grams of protein and only 50 calories.

The Lightlife tempeh is absolutely worth a try. Lightlife tempeh is high in fiber and plant-based protein, and it tastes slightly nutty. Tempeh is a go-to ingredient for a quick vegetarian meal. The Lightlife website has recipe ideas on how to prepare any of their products, including Orange-Ginger Glazed Tempeh.

I have found Lightlife at Whole Foods. Check availability in your area on the Lightlife website.

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program (greenmomsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product. 

U-Jam Fitness Class Review

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U-Jam is my dance favorite class currently offered at the YMCA. (All time favorite was an African Dance class at the Alief Y.) For months, I spent my Friday afternoons dancing to hip hop and world music beats. Class time has recently changed at my Y, so I can’t make it as often.

So what exactly is U-Jam?

According to the U-Jam website:Houston YMCA

U-Jam Fitness® is an athletic urban dance fitness workout that combines dance and high energy music for a workout that is bound to get your heart rate up, your body moving, and make you work up a sweat — all while having FUN!

During an hour-long class, the instructor leads a warm up, a cardio dance workout, and a cool down. The choreography is generally not too complicated. The moves can be repetitive, and the instructor will often demonstrate the moves at a slower pace before picking it up (otherwise known as Level 1 and Level 2). There are higher impact moves like jumps, but modifications are shown. There are verbal cues to remind you about each move.

Each song is its own routine, and songs can be mixed and matched. So, the instructor can change up just one or two songs from week to week instead of introducing an entirely new hour of dancing. My instructor often asks if there are any song requests. Music varies from world beats to hip hop. Some of the songs featured have been Cry (Just a Little), Gasolina, Goin’ In, Party All Night, No Diggity, and You’re So Beautiful.

The class is mostly cardio, and the workout doesn’t slow down much once you are warmed up! (In my opinion, it’s a better cardio workout than Nightclub Cardio.) There are moves that can tone the lower body (squats), upper body (repetitive arm motions in the air), and core (twists, chest isolations, and pops).

I have only had this class with one instructor, and she’s really great. She is the best at giving cues that I’ve had during a live class. She’s also nonjudgmental and very good at making everyone feel welcome.

U-Jam instructors seem to have lots of opportunities for training. There are sometimes invitations to local master classes, and the instructor also has attended a national meetings. She wears U-Jam attire and is enthusiastic about the U-Jam experience.

Overall, this is a fun cardio dance class that is adaptable for different levels of fitness.

Here’s a playlist I found on YouTube featuring samplings of U-Jam classes:

Chicago City Pass Review

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My husband recently attended a workshop in Chicago, and Trip and I were able to join him. David received three complimentary CityPASS books for Chicago.

CityPASS is available in twelve cities. With CityPASS, you pay a discounted rate and get tickets to different attractions in the city.

The Chicago CityPASS includes tickets to five attractions.

  1. VIP entry to the Shedd Aquarium
  2. Fast Pass to Skydeck Chicago
  3. VIP entry to the Field Museum
  4. Choice between VIP entry to Museum of Science and Industry OR Express Entry to 360 Chicago
  5. Choice between VIP entry to Adler Planetarium OR Fast Pass to Art Institute of Chicago

CityPASS prices vary by city, and there are adult and child rates. The adult coupon book also included more coupons for additional discounts. The coupons are dated and must be used within a specific time period. You do NOT tear out the coupons. Each location will do that. CityPASS is available online or at the attractions.

Using the CityPASS was a breeze! Many of the FastPass locations included a Fast Pass entry, so we could skip the lines. I kept the coupons in the books and handed them to the cashier at each museum. They each knew what the pass was and what it included.

The locations included in the CityPASS are excellent. The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago (Sears Tower), and the Art Institute of Chicago are iconic Chicago institutions. I would have loved to go to the Museum of Science and Industry, but our hotel was a bit far and we just ran out of time. So, we went to the 360 Chicago experience. This was a bit repetitive after also going to the SkyDeck. But, we still had fun!

 

A CityPASS is great for travelers who want to visit multiple locations over a short time frame. You get tickets to great destinations at a discounted rate. I wouldn’t suggest it for people who have only a short time in a city or whose travel plans are uncertain. It would be exhausting to cram too many locations into a brief stay in the city. The coupons expire, so if you don’t use most of the coupons, the CityPASS loses its value.

Overall, I liked the Chicago CityPASS. I liked being able to skip lines, and the coupon included some nice perks at some locations (like movies at the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum and audio tour guides at the Art Institute). We visited some of the best destinations in Chicago with the CityPASS.

Shedd Aquarium

Field Museum

Tiger Scouts: Team Tiger & Tigers in the Wild

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Team Tiger and Tigers in the Wild are two more required adventures for the Cub Scout Tiger rank.

Team Tiger requirements are:

  1. List the different teams of which you are a part.
  2. With your den, make a den job chart that shows everyone doing something to help. As one of the den jobs, lead the Pledge of Allegiance at a den meeting.
  3. Pick two chores you will do at home once a week for a month.
  4. Make a chart to show three ways that members of your Tiger team are different from each other.
  5. Do an activity to help your community or neighborhood team.

We usually follow the Tiger Den Leader Guide, and it has been so helpful. One of the suggested activities was a “Diversity Scavenger Hunt,” which was basically like one of those ice breaker games where the boys went around and tried to find another Tiger that fit different statements and have them sign the paper. It was more like a ‘differences’ scavenger hunt. Examples included finding someone who was wearing a watch, someone who has a dog, someone wearing a hat, and someone who has a brother.

I formatted a Tiger Den Job Chart, and we discussed as a den the different jobs that the boys could do during the meeting. I wrote those tasks on the chart. The names of each Tiger Scout was written on a clothes pin, so the boys could rotate through the jobs.

Our Tiger Den did two service projects. The Tigers did a collection of toiletries for a church food pantry. The boys made signs and placed collection boxes around the church. When the collection, the Scouts met at the food pantry and sorted the items. They also got a tour of the food pantry. Our second activity was a service project to support our chartering organization. The Tigers stuffed the Easter eggs for the church’s Easter egg hunt.

Tigers in the Wild requirements are:

  1. With your adult partner, name and collect the Cub Scout Six Essentials you need for a hike. Tell your den leader what you would need to add to your list if it rains.
  2. Go for a short hike with your den or family, and carry your own gear. Show you know how to get ready for rsthis hike.
  3. Assistant Den Leader pointing out wildlife to the Tigers

    Do the following:

    1. Listen while your leader reads the Outdoor Code. Talk about how you can be clean in your outdoor manners.
    2. Listen while your leader reads the Leave No Trace Principles for Kids. Discuss why you should “Trash Your Trash.”
    3. Apply the Outdoor Code and Leave No Trace Principles for Kids on your Tiger den and pack outings. After one outing, share what you did to demonstrate the principles you discussed.
  4. While on the hike, find three different kinds of plants, animals, or signs that animals have been on the trail. List what you saw in your Tiger handbook.
  5. Participate in an outdoor pack meeting or pack campout campfire. Sing a song and act out a skit with your Tiger den as part of the program.
  6. Find two different trees and two different types of plants that grow in your area. Write their names in your Tiger handbook.
  7. Visit a nearby nature center, zoo, or another outside place with your family or den. Learn more about two animals, and write down two interesting things about them in your Tiger handbook.

Finishing this loop has been a struggle. We’ve had so much rain in the area that the Pack’s spring camp out was rescheduled and then ended early on the rescheduled dates. We also had to reschedule our Den’s hike outing. When we did meet for a hike at a local nature preserve, there were so many mosquitoes! Insect repellent is definitely one of our den’s hiking essentials. Our Pack is holding its final pack meeting outdoors to help our Tigers truly meet requirement five. Other than the rain and mosquitoes, the Tigers had fun being outside and learning about local wildlife and trees.

Tiger Scouts: Tiger Bites & Backyard Jungle

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The Tiger Den completed the “Tiger Bites” Adventure Loop. This loop is about recognizing healthy eats and emphasizing good manners and is required for the boy to progress to the Tiger rank.

The requirements are:

  1. Identify three good food choices and three foods that would not be good choices.
  2.  Show that you know the difference between a fruit and a vegetable. Eat one of each.
  3. With your adult partner, pick a job to help your family at mealtime. Do it every day for one week.
  4. Show you can keep yourself and your personal area clean.
  5. Talk with your adult partner about what foods you can eat with your fingers. Practice your manners when eating them.
  6. With your adult partner, plan and make a good snack choice or other nutritious food to share with your den.

    Finding Timmy is always one of Trip’s goals when we’re at Trader Joe’s!

Number 1 was completed during a scavenger hunt at the wonderful Trader Joe’s of the Woodlands. The boys searched the store with their adult partners for good food choices and less healthy (but-oh-so-yummy) choices, found foods they’ve never seen before, and identified foods from local sources. Trader Joe’s was a great choice for a grocery scavenger hunt. One, the store has tons of variety, but it is also smaller and easier to navigate than a huge supermarket. Two, the staff at Trader Joe’s was terrific! They were so kind to the boys, and each Tiger got a sweet swag bag of healthy snacks.

They’ve also completed the “Backyard Jungle” Loop. It is also a required loop for the boys to advance to a Tiger rank. The requirements of this loop are:

  1. Take a 1-foot hike. Make a list of the living things you find on your 1-foot hike.
  2. Point out two different kinds of birds that live in your area.
  3. Be helpful to plants and animals by planting a tree or other plant in your neighborhood.
  4. Build and hang a birdhouse.
  5.  With your adult partner, go on a walk, and pick out two sounds you hear in your “jungle.”

There are lots of opportunities to observe nature in our community. Still, as a Den Leader, I was a bit intimidated when I read the requirements for this loop…specifically because of requirement 3. Plant a tree with first graders?! But, this turned out to be such a valuable project. The Den’s Assistant Den Leader and I each went to a local Arbor Day celebration with our families, where the township handed out tree seedlings for free . We kept the seedlings until it was time for the den outing to plant them. My co-leader checked on local regulations on planting trees, and the Tigers planted the seedlings along a hike-and-bike trail. (Thanks to the Woodlands Township for donating thousands of trees to the community every year!)

The Woodlands Township Mascot, Puffy Pine Cone, at the Arbor Day Celebration.

Trip’s Birdhouse. The Den used a classic idea…made a birdhouse out of a cleaned milk jug.